Friday, January 21, 2022

SCANDALS OF TOKYO by Author Heather Hallman **BOOK BLAST** **GIVEAWAY**

It's my pleasure to welcome author Heather Hallman to Notes From a Romantic's Heart. Today we're featuring her book, Scandals of Tokyo, part of the Tokyo Whispers series. You can find all the stops on this tour at Goddess Fish Promotions. Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw for your chance to win a $25 gift card. The entry form is at the bottom of this post.

Genre: Historical Romance


In the Foreign Quarter of Tsukiji, Tokyo, Japan, Victorian England is alive and well. Manners and etiquette are as valuable as gossip and deceit. Men are more rakish than ever - so far from home, societal rules seem to be relaxed. But courting young women still requires a deft hand, a smart wit, and a man with something to offer.


Intent on being an international journalist of repute, Evelyn Prescott will do what it takes to make her mark.

It doesn’t hurt that her father has built a newspaper empire, but finding a scandal in Japan is no easy task.

As much as she hates to admit it, she is forced to meet with the owner of the Tokyo Daily News, Ned Taylor, also an Englishman.

Ned holds a deep-rooted dislike of Evelyn’s father’s approach to journalism, and Ned, a notorious rake, pushes her to see just how far Evelyn is prepared to go to get her story.

Available at Amazon ~ B&N (Nook) ~ Burroughs Publishing ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

Tokyo 1896
Foreign Quarter of Tsukiji

Also, there was the issue of Mr Taylor’s appearance. In Evelyn’s experience, newspaper owners were balding and rotund. This man was… She struggled for the best way to assess him with the objective lens of a soon-to-be international journalist. He was the kind of man women pounced upon at the earliest given opportunity.

With tousled, auburn hair and a profile that suggested a country gentleman returning from a vigorous hunt, the man brimmed with virility. Yet the easy interactions with his companions suggested an absence of the hunter’s aggression found in most newspapermen—charmers and otherwise. Evelyn had to conclude this man lacked a predatory bearing because he didn’t require it: unfailingly, prey fell at his feet.

Aunt Prissy waved her fan against the thick heat, sending the gentle scent of the camellia perfume she’d purchased that afternoon on Tokyo’s luxurious Ginza Boulevard towards Evelyn. “The lovely Mrs Anderson pointed him out to me at the reception for that appalling exhibit at the Tsukiji art museum. She said, ‘That’s Ned Taylor, owner of the Tokyo Daily News.’ What was that exhibit again? Oh, yes, ‘Demonic Masks in the Japanese Shinto Tradition.’ Frightening, those enormous eyes and bulbous noses.”

The woodblock prints in the Hotel Metropolis lobby came to Evelyn’s mind. A series of pictures told the story of the Americans’ arrival in Tokyo on Commodore Perry’s Black Ships. In contrast to the uniformly small, straight, and unblemished Japanese visages, the foreigners boasted ruddy complexions, hordes of unruly hair, and what Evelyn found to be unfairly exaggerated facial features. “Those masks bore resemblance to the foreigners in the lobby prints?”

A look came Evelyn’s way, and Aunt Prissy widened her eyes as she beat the air with the gold satin leaf of her fan. “No wonder we get stared at every time we leave the foreign quarter. The Japanese think we’re demons.”

The men around Mr Taylor erupted in laughter at some gem that had fallen from his lips. “Not all of us,” Evelyn murmured.

Heather Hallman writes witty, sensual, contest-winning romances set in Meiji-era Japan (1868-1912). She is the author of the Tokyo Whispers series that includes Scandals of Tokyo and Talk of Tokyo.

She is fluent in Japanese language, history, and culture, and earned a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology based on fieldwork research in Japan. She lives in Tokyo with her professor husband and two young daughters. In her free time, she can be found translating ancient Japanese poetry and observing the passing of seasons while sipping green tea. Just kidding, she has no free time. But she does watch something that makes her laugh while she does the dishes.

Perennial obsessions include the weather forecast (she checks three different apps at least three times a day, as no single app can be trusted), Baltimore Ravens football (hometown obsession), and making smoothies that taste like candy bars.

Feel free to chat her up about any of her obsessions, or, even better, about historical Japan—any era is fine, she loves them all. She also enjoys exchanging book recommendations, discussions about the craft of romance writing, and stories about life in present-day Tokyo.

Heather Hallman will award a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please come back again soon for more authors, books, and giveaways.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

CLAIMING SHANDY by Author Bonnie Edwards **Book Birthday Celebration**

It's my pleasure today to welcome Author Bonnie Edwards to Notes From a Romantic's Heart for her Book Birthday celebration! Claiming Shandy is the latest story in Bonnie's Return to Welcome series.

She thought her divorce was final…

Welcome WA, where rumor, gossip, and old grudges endure long past their best before date.

Justin Camden wants his life back. His wife back. His son back. And he’s returned to Welcome to get them. Justin has a plan for the Christmas season and moving in with his ex and his boy is just the beginning.

Shandy Camden is stuck. Her big oaf of an ex-husband has finagled his way into her home for the entire month of December. He claims to want an old-fashioned family Christmas with their son. She’s forced to let Justin stay because refusing will break her son’s heart.

Slowly, Shandy sees that her ex may have another agenda. But she doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas the way their son does. Helpless and forced to live with her ex, Shandy struggles to overcome her growing attraction to the only man who’s ever left her. The only man she’s ever loved. But Justin left once and if he leaves again, she’ll never recover, and neither will their son…

When the truth comes out, Shandy and Justin may well have discovered that more than anything, Christmas is about love.

Warning: This book has lots of groveling in it. If you don’t want to read about a divorced man making things right, then this romance isn’t for you.

Click here to find Claiming Shandy at Your Favorite Retailer

Chapter One

December 1 Welcome WA

Justin Camden was no quitter. Never had been and he wasn’t about to give up now. But first he had to do battle against the dragons breathing fire in his gut. He’d never been this scared. Not even at fourteen when his dad caught him out driving his mom’s car at midnight.

He parked outside the Welcome Bar & Grill and called his buddy, Jake Morrow who was inside with a group of friends. Friends who included Justin’s wife, Shandy.

Everything he wanted to accomplish tonight hinged on whatever BS line Jake had come up with. “It’s me. I’m here. What did you tell her?”

In the background, Justin heard happy people greeting each other over the distant sound of a Christmas song. The season had begun. He climbed out of his car while he heard Jake excuse himself to take the call.


The background noise had receded, but Justin couldn’t have heard right. “What?”

“Every hotel in the area’s infested. Didn’t you know?” Jake said with a smirk in his voice.

“She’ll never believe that.” He had his hand on the brass door pull. Yanked it toward him.

“I believe she does believe me.”

He shook his head. No way. Shandy was the smartest woman he’d ever met and for the past three years, she’d been made of stone. He had to make her crack, but nonsense about bedbugs wouldn’t do it. The flame-thrower in his belly belched. Maybe he should turn around and leave.

“Plus, I told Shandy how much Brianna and I are enjoying our honeymoon period,” Jake was saying. “She can’t force you to stay with us. She has to let you stay at her place. She’ll have no choice.”

“Our place.” The home they’d bought together, to raise their family in. “You ass. Bedbugs?” He was inside the vestibule now, looking through the stained-glass partition, searching the restaurant side of the building. “I see the table.”

Jake stood a few feet away from the group. “Don’t worry, you got this,” he said, looking right at him through the multi-colored pane.

“My best and only shot.” He ended the call, plastered a smile on his face and made his way through the tables to where Shandy sat beside an empty chair. If this crazy bedbug story worked, he’d have a chance to get her angry. He needed her angry.

If she were angry with him, it was a sign that she still cared. That he could still make her feel something for him.

An angry Shandy was honest, and open. Angry Shandy was not a stone angel, cold and remote, the way she’d been for too long. He needed honest and open or his plan to return to Welcome and be the husband and father he wanted to be would fail.

Justin Camden was no quitter. He doused the flames in his gut.

Bonnie Edwards has been writing all her life, starting with a poem about Santa suffering with gout. She was seven, Santa was a thousandteen years old. Delighted with writing, she went on to write family sagas, humorous contemporary romance, romantic suspense, erotic paranormal ghost romances and more.

She may jump around within romance, but all her stories come with a tear, a laugh, and a happy ending. Published by Kensington Books, Harlequin Books, Carina Press, and Robinson (UK) Bonnie’s stories stretch from short stories to novellas and novels. Now, she's happy to be publishing her work herself.

With 40 titles to her credit, she has been translated into several languages and sold books worldwide. Aside from standalone romances, she has 6 romance series that include Christmas romances and beach reads. Contemporary family sagas find a home in Return to Welcome. Learn about more exciting releases and get a free romance by subscribing to her newsletter, Bonnie’s Newsy Bits.

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Thank you for stopping by to help Bonnie celebrate her latest Book Birthday. Please come back again soon for more authors and books and--maybe even--a giveaway or two!


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

LURED BY THE GHOST RAKE by Author Marianna Green **REVIEW** **GIVEAWAY**

Today we welcome author Marianna Green to the Notes From a Romantic's Heart to introduce her newest novel, Lured by the Ghost Rake, a paranormal romance. You can find all the stops on this tour at Goddess Fish Promotions. Also, please remember to enter the giveaway. The entry form is at the end of this post.

When Elda Elwood goes on a visit to her actor lover Jake Reynolds’ ancestral home, she is drawn by a portrait of his ancestor, eighteenth century rake Lord Lucas Lovegrove.

She learns the tragic story behind the viscount’s marriage to the innocent young heiress Rose Ashworth.

Elda senses that the portrait has strange powers, and that the house is haunted by Lovegrove’s predatory and sexual ghost...

And what is the secret of the sinister pagoda in the grounds?

Get your copy of Lured by the Ghost Rake on Amazon
The book is on sale for 99 cents during the tour.

‘Come, my charmer.’ Fingers like icicles caressed Elda’s left hand.

She tried to pull it back under the warmth of the covers, but whoever it was kept a tight hold on it. That cold didn’t jerk her into wakefulness; she knew she was still half dreaming, and that was why she wasn’t put out that another man was in the bedroom.

Now she knew who he was. Though he had been dead for two-and-a-quarter centuries, she wasn’t alarmed. Still, she wanted to sleep, and grunted a protest.

She had been dreaming about moving through the grounds in a magical silver gilt light, and she wanted to try and drift back into that dream. Still, the melodious voice lured, though not much louder than the murmur of a rising wind rushing through a bamboo plantation.

‘You do not fear me, my sweet? Come and be mine.’

She could see him through her closed lids, seemingly both in her half-waking dream and here. This Lovegrove was like the one in the vision she had seen in the conservatory, still youthful despite his excesses.

He wore some embroidered robe of either a deep blue or bluish crimson, his form not being material enough for her to tell which. She knew it soon would be. The robe, loosely tied, was falling open, so that she could see that he was naked underneath, his bare chest revealed, the muscular definition as fine as Jake’s, the golden hairs glinting in the moonlight...

3.5 Stars

Lured by the Ghost Rake is a fun, creepy romp through an ancestral home, complete with resident ghost. The story reminded me of Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Of course, in this case, the portrait was of a man... the infamous rake Lord Lucas Lovegrove.

While the story itself held all the markings of a gothic romance, I didn't quite connect with the characters. I couldn't get a firm grip on any of their true personalities. That didn't keep me from enjoying the over-all ambiance and the setting of the story. If you're a fan of spooky ghost romances, you will enjoy Lured by the Ghost Rake.

A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse

Marianna Green lives in the UK, has a geekish fascination with English Literature and History, and an irrepressible sense of humour.

Marianna Green will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thank you so much for stopping by today. Be sure to come back soon for more authors, books, and giveaways.


Friday, January 7, 2022

BOSSED UP BY THE BILLIONAIRE by Author VK Holt *Book Blast* *Giveaway*

Welcome to Notes From a Romantic's Heart. Today, we're featuring author VK Holt and her new book, Bossed Up by the Billionaire, Book 1 of the Manhattan Stories series. You can find all of the stops on this tour at Goddess Fish Promotions. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a $25 Gift Card. The entry form is at the bottom of this post.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Bossed Up
//informal// to go after something/someone with determination. To put your entire soul into achieving a desired outcome

Life had dealt me so many curveballs, Struggle became my middle name.

Wouldn’t it be nice for once not to have to fight for what I want?

Enter: Mr. Perfect Stranger.

He promised me a time to remember.

I can safely vouch he kept his promise. All. Night. Long.

Trouble is, his family bought the company I work for.

And his first order of business was to remind me that I left him...

Without saying goodbye.

But that’s not the worst of it.

He wants to pick up where we left off.

Last time, I barely escaped from falling. Who’s to say that this time, I’ll be the one asking him to stay?

Bossed Up by the Billionaire is a dual POV Contemporary Romance with no cliffhanger, no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.

Get Bossed Up by the Billionaire on Amazon
The book is on sale for 99during the tour

From the chapter The Snare of a Web

And just like that, I’m in high school all over again. From the time I was born, I’ve been in the 75th height percentile. That means I’m a smidge over average. Royce Grayson towers over me. He was a big man when I met him two years ago, and he’s even bigger now.

He could do some serious damage.

And I sure as hell want him to.

"Royce, give me my phone."

His grin spells trouble. His words even more so. "That’s all I was waiting for, Sin. I wanted to hear my name come out of that damn sexy mouth of yours. I’ve been thinking about it all day." He places the phone in my palm and his slight touch lights a trail of fire up my arm.

I ignore the sensation and glance at my phone. Besides a thin crack on the left-hand side, close to the top, the screen now has a spider web of lines starting in the lower right corner and progressing to the middle in a wide arc.

Terrific. Fine. Whatever.

My annoyance with him and his kind comes out in the harshness of my tone. "Don’t call me 'Sin,'" I say, stuffing my phone in my bag. I’m going to the bar. To hell with this.

Whatever this is.

I loop my bag over my shoulder and take a step forward to brush past him.

He stands in my way. "We need to talk."

I ignore the hope blooming in my chest. It's not right. It's not right.

VK Holt has been creating stories since the age of six. An author of steamy contemporary and fantasy romance, she includes both humor and angst when writing about the strong men and the sassy women who come to love them.

If she isn’t baking, she is reading, writing or walking her Chihuahua. And drinking coffee, too. Can’t forget about that.

VK Holt will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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It's been my pleasure hosting VK Holt today. Please come back again soon for more authors, books, and givesways!


Monday, January 3, 2022

THEIR NEW YEAR'S BEGINNING by Author Michelle Major **Book Blast** **Review**

Happy New Year Everyone! Welcome back to Notes From a Romantic’s Heart for 2022. We’re starting the new year off with a visit from author Michelle Major and her new book, Their New Year’s Beginning from Harlequin Special Edition. You can find all the stops on Michelle’s tour at Goddess Fish Promotions. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway. The entry form is at the bottom of this post.

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

At the stroke of midnight, a stranger’s kiss changes everything…

Brian Fortune doesn’t think he will ever find the woman he kissed at his brother's New Year's wedding. So when the search for the provenance of a mysterious gift leads him into a local antique store a few days later, he's stunned to find Emmaline Lewis, proprietor—and mystery kisser! Surprise turns to shock when he realizes that she's also six months pregnant. Brian has never been the type to commit—and he’s really not ready to become a family man in one fell swoop! But suddenly he knows he’ll do anything to stay at Emmaline's side—for good…

“May I kiss you, Emmaline?”

Welp. There it was. He was actually asking her permission. As if Emmaline could be more taken with him, his quiet question pushed her over the edge of reason.

She was smitten. The kind of enamored that had her wondering if he might be able to hear her heart pounding against her rib cage. As if her anticipation was a palpable thing.

After a moment, she nodded, not trusting her voice.

Brian’s warm hands lifted to her face, and he cupped her cheeks as if she were precious to him. She felt precious.

He leaned in and brushed his lips against hers, featherlight and controlled. Her body erupted in goosebumps and she let out a tiny moan, both in satisfaction and frustration. She reveled in the sensations swirling through her and, at the same time, wanted more.

Brian must have heard the sound—another tally in her list of embarrassments for this night—but he didn’t seem to find anything wrong with it.

In fact, it seemed to spur him on. The kiss turned deeper as he shifted both of them into a nearby alcove so she couldn’t be seen by the crowd.

He continued to cup her cheeks, the softness of his touch in sharp contrast to the hard planes of the chest she could feel under her hands. But when he lowered one hand to the small of her back to pull her closer, Emmaline wrenched away.

She could not allow herself to be pressed up against him. Not now. Not without revealing…too much.

He looked as dazed as she felt as he stared at her.

“I have to go,” she whispered, more to herself than him.

Before he could answer, she turned and ran away.

3.5 Stars

This was a nice, comfy, romance. Plenty of family, activities and love to go around. A bit confusing at times with a large host of characters but, once I got them straight in my head, I was able to follow along well enough to enjoy the story. I found it a bit strange that all the young heroines were pregnant when they nabbed their hero, but I’m going to assume that was the premise for a new series.

The story follows the standard Harlequin formula. So, if you enjoy this tried-and-true genre, I’m sure you’ll like this book.

USA Today bestselling author Michelle Major loves stories of new beginnings, second chances and always a happily ever after. An avid hiker and avoider of housework, she lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two teenagers, and a menagerie of spoiled furbabies.

Michelle Major will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.

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It's been my pleasure hosting Michelle for today's stop on her tour. Please come back again later in the week and all month for more authors, books, and giveaways!


Monday, December 20, 2021

HIS SEXY SECRET SANTA by Author Nancy Fraser **Book Birthday**

I'm pleased to be celebrating another Book Birthday ... my last for 2021! I want to introduce you to the first book in my Feisty Holiday Fun Series, His Sexy Secret Santa, a steamy holiday romp.

Ebenezer Scrooge can’t hold a pewter candlestick to Assistant D.A., Zackary Parker when it comes to disliking Christmas. On the fast track to becoming the next elected District Attorney, Zack has little time for anything but his society girl friend and schmoozing the Suffolk County elite in search of their support.

The only wrench in his plans is his unrequited attraction to Erica Jordan, his overachieving paralegal. Will his fantasies about the buttoned-up perfectionist get him in more trouble than he can handle?

Erica Jordan prefers to keep her professional and personal life as separate as possible. While she exudes an intelligent and confident demeanor in her position as paralegal to the county’s top litigators, her weekends are reserved for the “other” Erica—the hard rock loving, sexy chick in the short skirts and sky-high heels.

What will happen when her two worlds collide? And, can she and Zack get past their no-fraternization rule to create a holiday neither of them is likely to soon forget?

Get your copy of His Sexy Secret Santa at Your Favorite Retailer

“New business is next. Before Miss Jordan gets to the sheriff’s latest wish list, does anyone have non-case related business?”

Somewhat timidly it seemed, Andi Stevens, the admin he shared with Erica and his boss, Scott Pillard, raised her hand. “I’d like to discuss this year’s Secret Santa participation.”

“Secret Santa?” he repeated, forcing an authoritative tone to his voice. “You want to deck the county attorney’s offices like a tricked-out shopping mall, and you want to exchange gifts?”

Andi nodded, then asked, “Didn’t they celebrate the holidays at that fancy law firm where you worked before?”

He stifled a laugh, admittedly impressed with her brashness. “Of course, they did Miss Stevens, but in a far more subdued manner. We held a corporate cocktail party, handed out bonuses, and made generous donations to various charities.” He raised his head, directing his final words on the matter to everyone in the room. “Our concessions to decorating consisted of tastefully adorned wreaths on the doors leading to the fifteenth and sixteenth-floor lobbies.”

“Oh.” The single-word response seemed to dull the young woman’s enthusiasm, and make him look like a grade-A ass at the same time.

Zack bit back on a self-deprecating laugh. “However, if the rest of you want to participate in a gift exchange, I’ve no problem with it whatsoever.” Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Erica Jordan’s quick smile before she pursed her full, pink-tinged lips together to hold her reaction in.

“Thank you,” Andi said. “It’ll be fun. We can set a spending limit—”

He raised his hand, stopping her mid-sentence. “Fine, you work out the details and fill us in at next Friday’s staff meeting.” Hoping to steer their focus back onto the business at hand, he turned to Erica and asked, “What did the sheriff have for us?”

“An alleged bribery case, sir. Their investigation uncovered what looks to be corruption in the county land surveyor’s office. The bribe supposedly came from a local real estate developer.”

“Are they sending their files over?”

She nodded, the slight dip of her head knocking loose a tendril of her snugly pinned blonde hair. Zack sucked in a quick, hopefully silent, breath. His palms itched with the urge to reach out and touch, to run the golden silk through his fingers.

With a brush of her hand, she slid the errant strand behind her ear, and explained, “The file should be here first thing Monday morning. I’ll go over the notes I took during the phone call, and do some prep work before I leave for the night. I should be able to find at least a half-dozen or so citations on similar cases.”

He stood, prepared to dismiss the staff. “That’s it everyone. Have a good weekend.” Before she could escape, he added, “Miss Jordan, can you hold back a minute?”

“Yes, of course,” she said, coming to meet him at the end of the long conference table.

“I’d stay and help with the research,” he offered. “But I’m expected at a fundraiser.”

“It’s not a problem,” she assured him. “I don’t have any plans for the evening.”

“Plans or not, I’m sure you hadn’t intended to stay late,” he said, not really needing to extend the conversation, yet wanting to enjoy more of her sultry voice.

She shrugged, the quick lift of her slender shoulders drawing his attention to where her blouse narrowed into a vee and exposed a scant peek at her porcelain skin.

His fingertips did their all-too-frequent tingle whenever she was nearby.

“I’d better get to work,” she said, no doubt waiting for him to signal they were done.

“Yes,” he agreed, coughing to clear the sudden dryness in his throat. “I’ve got to get going if I’m going to make the fundraiser on time.” She’d just reached the door, when he added, “Have a great weekend, Erica.”

She turned, meeting his gaze. Her eyes widened, his use of her given name obviously catching her off guard.

“You too, sir.”

Zack closed his eyes and let out a long, cleansing sigh. Sir?

What he wouldn’t give to hear her say his name in those low, dulcet tones of hers. Or, better yet, in a moment of unrestrained passion. He’d always had a thing for the subdued, prim-and-proper type and Erica Jordan was pushing all the right buttons.

NANCY FRASER is an Amazon Top 100 and Award-Winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.

Nancy published her first book in 1996 and hasn’t stopped since. Her 100th book will be released in late 2022.

When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.

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This is my last post for 2021. Grandma needs a break to spend time with family.
I'll be back in 2022 with more authors, more great books, and tons of giveaways!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday and a prosperous,
safe, and happy New Year.


Monday, December 13, 2021

GAVEL AND GARLAND ~ A Dickens Holiday Romance by Author Kathryn Hills

Happy Book Birthday to Author Kathryn Hills. Today we're celebrating the release of Gavel and Garland, part of the Dickens Holiday Romance collection. Come join us as we make another trip to the wonderful holiday town of Dickens!

Can a humbug and a holiday lover come together when wedding and Christmas bells ring?

Elizabeth McKenzie doesn’t hate Christmas. As the new mayor of Dickens, the quaint New England town famous for its holiday cheer, she has no time to enjoy it. And while she understands small-town politics, what she doesn’t get is people sugar coating problems during the hectic season. There’s much to be done, and she intends to prove she’s up to the task. However, she never imagined being blindsided by someone special. The Army officer in town for the wedding she’s officiating is annoyingly upbeat and handsome. Will he derail her agenda? Or can she slow down enough to smell the gingerbread and maybe meet him under the mistletoe?

Trekking around the globe to help animals and people is all Army veterinarian Daniel Murray knows. He’s not a fan of settling down, but there’s something wonderful about a place that embraces his favorite holiday. What’s even more appealing is Dickens’ feisty young mayor. Seems she has a knack for finding trouble. Dare he get involved with the beautiful humbug? Or should he avoid her like a stocking full of coal? It’s decision time for the self-proclaimed bachelor for life. Stay in the military, or open a vet practice right there in Christmas town?

Get your copy of Gavel and Garland from Your Favorite Retailer

The man rose from a crouched position alongside the horse. His back was to her until he turned around, and their gazes locked.

Beth’s mouth fell open.

“Big Red?” he asked, looking utterly perplexed.

The group of onlookers parted. Confused stares flipped back and forth between them.

She continued to gawk in disbelief. “Wha…what did you just call me?”

“You two know each other?” Heather piled on, sounding equally surprised.

Dan brushed off his hands and approached her.

“I…we…” Beth fumbled for words as she took a step back. “I saw him at the airport when he—” She snapped her lips shut before something stupid could slip out.

An impossibly handsome smile formed on the man’s face when he came closer. “I saw you board the plane, but I had no idea you were traveling to Dickens. Quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“I…I…” She stammered some more before composing herself. “I am the mayor of this fine town. And I’m officiating this wedding.” She stood tall and arched one brow in annoyance.

The groom cleared his throat, stepping between them as if sensing her tension. “Elizabeth McKenzie—Beth to all that know her—this is Major Daniel Murray, our best man. Dan is one of my oldest friends from my Army days.”

Amusement twinkled in the man in question’s eyes.

Dear Lord, they’re a striking color. Grey. Like the sky before a snowstorm.

He sported some scruff on his face now, whereas before, at the airport, he’d had no more than a five o’clock shadow on that rugged jaw. Salt and pepper. Same as his short, cropped hair.

Beth took another step back when his hand shot out to her.

Ooo… Not very smooth.

She quickly recovered and accepted it. Warmth instantly spread over her skin from his solid, manly grip.

“Nice to meet you, Mayor McKenzie. I’m loving your little town so far.”

She gave him a brusque nod, not trusting herself to form real words in his unsettling presence.

“We’d best be gettin’ up to the fields if we’re gonna practice marchin’ before sundown,” old Tom Gridley cautioned. “Daylight is scarce these days.”

The happy wedding party began working their way outside to the barnyard and their waiting transport.

“Who is that?” Jenna whispered, adding a suggestive look as they walked away together. “Oh my God…you were like…speechless. Awkward. Major chemistry between you two though.”

“I was surprised, that’s all.” Beth scoffed. “There’s no chemistry. What chemistry? I, for one, do not believe in chemistry.”

“Okay, no chemistry,” her niece griped. Yet she glanced over her shoulder. “Then why is he still grinning at you like a creeper? He is literally watching you walk away. I bet he’s checking out your butt.”

Beth gasped and slammed to a halt. Despite her best effort to remain professional, she spun to face him. Jenna skittered off, leaving them alone in the barn’s wide doorway. “Why did you call me Big Red?” she demanded.

Dan’s admiring stare settled on her face like a warm caress, causing a flurry of unexpected butterflies to take flight in her stomach.

“Sorry. Bad habit. I give everyone nicknames. Sometimes one. Sometimes many. Depends on the person and how much I like them.” He chuckled, and tiny lines crinkled the corners of those remarkable eyes. His face was lightly suntanned, as if he spent time outdoors wherever he lived.

“And mine is ‘Big Red’ for some reason? Why, because of my hair?” She squared her jaw, challenging him. “You don’t even know me, Dr. Dan.”

The smile fell from his face, and Beth suddenly wondered if he was better looking when he was serious or when he was teasing her.

“Want the truth?” he asked in a solemn tone. “You’re a hard woman to miss. When I saw you in line at the airport, you stood out. Let’s just say no man with a pulse would miss a woman as striking as you.”

Heat rushed to her cheeks despite the cold air.

“Tall, beautiful, with that great hair color.” His smile returned, and his gaze dropped to her lips. “Big Red.”

I was fortunate enough to be able to read an ARC of Gavel and Garland and I'm happy to say, it lives up to the high standards of this entire series.

Kathryn Hills writes beautifully descriptive scenes and adds just the right amount of sexual tension to amp up the usual 'will they or won't' they angst. Add in some wonderfully colorful supporting characters, family drama, and Ms. Hills signature quirk of adding animals (specifically dogs) to all her books, and you know you've got a winner.

The main characters are imperfect (okay, maybe Dr. Dan is perfect), but they learn and grow, and make the happily-ever-after conclusion even more believable and heartfelt. If you're in the mood for a great holiday romance worthy of a Hallmark movie, this is the book!

Hauntingly romantic unless she’s writing sweet!

The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrop for many of KATHRYN’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts...all sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories include ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.

When not writing, this best-selling author is reading, researching, gardening, or cooking up something special in her chaotic kitchen. She shares her colonial home in the north woods with those she loves most – her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.

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